The National Media Museum in Bradford, West Yorkshire is yet another brilliant FREE museum managed by the Science Museum Group. This one is dedicated to all things media and it’s a great place to go if you’re interested in TV, AV production, animation, and computing.
We visited in the October half-term holidays and honestly, parts of it were stressful and noisy. If you’re interested in looking at things in a grown-up manner, then half-term is probably best avoided. For a family of gamers and internet nerds headed by a Telly-addict Grandma, The National Media Museum is amazing.
You’ll have to excuse me if any of this is now out of date! We actually visited in October half-term 2015, and my blogging time has been seriously depleted recently. But here we are, and please do check out the website of the National Media Museum before you visit, as always.
We took Charlie the school bear, on our way to Manchester. It was a good stop-off point, being signposted off the M62, and in Bradford City Centre. There is parking available at the museum itself but it is limited. Please check out the website for more information. We got parked in a nearby public car park on Wilton Street. It looked a bit dodgy, but it was reasonable value (£3.50 all day maximum), and a short walk across the busy road from the museum. The car was fine there, I’m pleased to report!
The National Media Museum
Once inside and armed with a map, our first stop was Life Online – an exhibition on the history of the internet. There’s loads to learn here about the development of the internet in both hardware and software.
We signed up to a workshop to do some coding, where we learned how to make a light box make different patterns. This was a great activity and I really enjoyed it, as well as the girls.
Upstairs, there was a temporary exhibition, Light Fantastic, about the use of light in media technology. There was a room of mirrors and neon lights, which was very popular, and the girls got to have a go at making their own light picture, which they loved.
Nearby, there were activities where you could make your own sound circle – you made some black card into a ‘recording’ for a light machine which translated the light coming through the patterns into sound. You can see more of this on our video.
Experience TV on floor 3 is brilliant! This is all about how TV works. You can look inside TV sets and have a go at being a newsreader with the help of Huw from the BBC.
You can experience green screen (bun fight rules apply here seemingly in half-term), and also be the star or cameraman of a TV soap opera.
Next, I spent some time looking nostalgically at the exhibits of children’s TV history. Do you recognise these little characters?
The Magic Factory is very popular with children of all ages. It’s a colourful, interactive exhibition with lot of hands-on displays to learn about light. Things like mirrors, and illusions, and the spinny things that toddlers love.
How do you make an almost 40-year old gamer feel old? You put some of the games and games consoles she grew up on (and still has) into an exhibition about gaming ‘history’ and call it all ‘classic’ and ‘retro’! The N64 isn’t that old, is it?
We loved the games lounge. It was full of old arcade machines with Space Invaders and the like, and also ‘retro’ consoles like my beloved N64 and the SEGA Mastersystem, with games on such as Mario Kart original and Prince of Persia.The younger children were loving them and weren’t at all put off by the relatively poor quality graphics.
We also tried out the image wall which used the same technology as in Microsoft Kinect .
The Animation Gallery is homage to animation and there are some amazing pieces in here, including original artwork and animation cells, and original film sets from classic animated work such as Wallace and Gromit’s The Wrong Trousers, and Morph.The children didn’t know all of these characters, but were stupidly excited about those they did. Look out for the aliens from the SMASH adverts!
That’s it! We were pooped by then.
Total trip time – four hours, including a stop at the very cool Media Cafe
The museum is located over several floors but there are lifts available to all areas. Toilets on pretty much all floors too.
During our visit Experience TV and the Magic Factory were by far the busiest areas. The Games Lounge was ok, and the Animation Gallery was delightfully peaceful! Choose your time wisely. Wet days during school holidays and this place will likely be packed. If you want to look at things in peace, then a fine day during school hours will probably be best.
The National Media Museum is a great free day out with lots to learn for children and adults alike. Well recommended.